A police department battered by controversy is trying something different in its search for a new chief. For the first time, an outside firm will handle a nationwide search.
Tuesday’s announcement came nearly five months after former chief Darryl Boykins resigned, then was demoted. When asked why it took so long to begin the search, Mayor Pete Buttigieg said it’s an extremely sensitive and complex process, not the kind of thing you want to do casually.
He also said the city reviewed proposals from a number of firms before narrowing it down to just one who agreed to conduct the search for one dollar.
It’s been a challenging year for South Bend Police. After a federal investigation into illegally recorded phone lines, distrust between the department and some community members and a city council member's recent allegations of a racist and criminal culture in the department, the city is taking another step to push the department forward.
“The objective of the search is to find a group of candidates that are not only qualified for the position but fit the dynamics of what south bend is about,” said Bob Wasserman, chairman of Strategic Planning Partnership, LLC – the company chosen to conduct the search.
Wasserman’s connection to South Bend is fostered by the fact that his wife spent a majority of the past year here with her 99-year-old father and her aunt. Wasserman added he likes the city and the mayor’s vision for it.
Originally from Massachusetts, Wasserman told reporters he’s up for that challenge and is charging the city one dollar to lead the search for South Bend’s next top cop.
“We will move as expeditiously as possible. There’s a series of steps we need to take,” he added.
Neither Wasserman nor the mayor would talk about a firm timeline for hiring a new chief but said they hope to have one in place by the end of the year.
Strategic Planning Partnership will ask police officers, civilian police department employees and people who live in South Bend what characteristics they want to see in the next police chief and what issues that chief should address. That includes a town hall meeting. Then, the nationwide search will begin.
“We need to make sure we have the best options available to us. The best candidate may be right here in the building and there's no reason to close that off on either side,” Buttigieg said.
Finally, the mayor will chose a new police chief, arrange a background investigation for that person then announce his decision.
But why the need for so much outside input in order to reach a decision that’s ultimately up to him?
“This is something that’s attracted a lot of attention in the community. The police chief is one of the most sensitive and one of the most important positions in government. It is my decision to make but there is no reason to miss any opportunity to get input,” he explained.
Strategic Policy Partnership specializes in police and government agencies with policing strategy development, performance improvement and other advising for departments across the country. His list of clients includes the cities and/or police departments of Cincinnati, Oakland, Milwaukee, Cambridge, Mass., San Francisco, Los Angeles, New York City and Chicago.
Even though Wasserman signed a contract for one dollar, the search will still cost taxpayers.
The Board of Public Safety agreed Tuesday morning to pay up to $6,800 in the search – including expenses for the town hall moderator and certain parts of the interview process. The background investigation on the new chief could cost anywhere from $5,000 to $9,000.